Pharmacies will experience significant shifts in the way they operate during the remainder of the calendar year — and well into 2021. From the
ongoing transition to value-based care to the explosion of COVID-19, pharmacy executives will monitor the industry trends and changes and respond accordingly to optimize patient care.
High-quality care provision — enabled by personalized approach, efficient workflow and data-driven decision making at the point of service — will continue to be the top objective for pharmacists and health care providers at large. And tomorrow’s improved treatment outcomes originate with a deeper understanding of what today’s — and yesterday’s — data tells pharmacies. Health care challenges can be solved, in part, by the application of accurate, rich and well-integrated information that facilitates better decisions. Social determinants of health (SDOH) will certainly play a large part in achieving that goal.
As pharmacies work to meet operational challenges including regulatory demands, error reduction and safety requirements, they’ll need to balance patient needs with business demands. Automation will be vital for this endeavor. Correct patient identification is the starting point to a smoother, integrated workflow process that grants providers more time for the tasks that matter most. A successful pharmacy future relies on the synthesis of data, technology and personal care delivery for optimal care coordination and outcomes.
Serving the correct patient
Inaccurate patient identification continues to be a major problem not only in pharmacy but in health care overall. Due to the lack of patient data standardization and a plethora of fragmented patient records, duplicate, mismatched and incorrect record problems plague all providers. Obstacles to correct patient identification and complete record access lead to prescribing errors and, subsequently, patient harm. The industry simply can’t maintain existing practices allowing for wrong-patient errors or dispensing incorrect medication as it continues to work toward better outcomes.
A universal patient identifier (UPI) serves as an answer to these pervasive problems. A UPI-based solution enables better management of patients by matching and maintaining a unique identifier for every single patient. Sophisticated linking technology can analyze records from disparate data sources and link them together as a common record. This type of automation enables a level of data matching that human efforts simply cannot achieve initially or maintain overtime. With the adoption of a UPI and continued progress towards true interoperability across providers, the pharmacy and other care teams, patients will be accurately identified and treated with a “complete picture” perspective for better wellness and disease management.
Personalizing care with SDOH
Establishing a complete and holistic view of each patient will be an essential strategy for patient management in pharmacies. And this view should go beyond the clinical data in a complete patient record. Evidence has already demonstrated that data outside the scope of clinical care significantly impacts outcomes. Social determinants — the conditions in which people are born, live, work and age — account for 50% of patients’ health status. In light of this, pharmacy executives can leverage various data sources for both more personalized approaches to service solutions and more efficient operations.
For example, SDOH insights can help pharmacists determine which patients are at risk for medication nonadherence. If the patient is experiencing financial stress, the pharmacist can recommend financial assistance programs that can help. If the patient lacks education, the pharmacist can spend more time explaining how to take the medication and the reasons why taking the medication according to their provider’s instructions will help. On a larger scale, SDOH will enable the mapping of community resources to the needs of patient populations, identifying gaps so more customized health services and interventions can be made.
Moreover, individualized patient interactions place each patient’s specific needs in a sharp focus, resulting in better engagement. Engaged, informed patients have increased concordance with mutually agreed care management plans, which reduces adverse events and improves health outcomes. The pharmacy can leverage a range of technology solutions to help patients take a more active role in their care — including portal access, direct education via smartphone, app-facilitated communications and reminders, and more comprehensive medical records access.
When including this patient-level data in the workflow and enabling individuals to enroll in patient portals, pharmacies will need to balance privacy and security. By integrating patient linking and matching technology and adding the right layers of verification and authentication across workflow and platforms, pharmacies can prevent HIPAA violations and protect patient names, birth dates, prescription information and other critical data. Multifactor authentication (MFA) is an approach to security and identity management that extensively assesses the risk of both physical and digital identity attributes to enable more accurate and timely risk detection and identity decisions. The MFA uses at least two independent elements, or factors, such as identity document authentication, knowledge-based questions, one-time passwords, email verification, facial recognition, or device analytics to verify patients based on the criticality of transactions.
Navigating evolving compliance, workflow demands
In addition to facilitating better connection with patients, technology solutions will help relieve various operational burdens pharmacists bear. Compliance concerns are always top of mind for pharmacy executives and staff, as regulatory bodies keep a tight rein on medication dispensing, especially of controlled substances. Validating prescriber data for each prescription will continue to be the focus for pharmacies. Solutions that automatically incorporate real-time data about prescribers and check it against all relevant regulations to make prescriber verification quick and seamless are critical. Automating this pre-dispensing process is a best industry practice to meet extensive regulatory requirements and prevent costly noncompliance errors.
Furthermore, solutions that integrate right into the workflow will speed up the filling of prescriptions, giving pharmacists more time to spend with patients to address specific questions, challenges or needs. The future of the pharmacy workflow is in automation, which contributes not only to risk mitigation but also to more efficient operations overall.
Responding to global and national challenges
In addition to technological innovations changing how pharmacies will function in the future, health care challenges, such as the global outbreak of COVID-19, will also have an impact on the role of the pharmacies. As highly accessible members of the care team, pharmacists are primed to collaborate with health authorities and support the community in various ways. Already, we are seeing examples where pharmacists are proactively consulting with patients in stores on medications and arranging for medications to be delivered to patients at their homes when needed.
Achieving high-quality, efficient care for pharmacies and clinical care providers nationwide is possible: Using technology to drive data-based decisions will ultimately lead to improved outcomes.
Craig Ford is vice president of sales for pharmacy at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.